Oh, fashion week in Paris. There, one can witness young international socialites sprinting in their Christian Louboutins from fashion show to fashion show in hopes of getting a photo with the latest-hottest-richest (fill in the blank). And, if you happen to be dining close to the reservation desk at Hotel Costes, chances are high that you witnessed a model's breakdown as she was told she could not get a table for her and her entourage at that moment. Drama, at its finest. Then, there is my addictive need to hunt for all-that's-tres-chic, sometimes my day ends in defeat, while other nights are victorious. Like the night we were able to get a table for nine at newest dining hot spot La Société. This venue is so under the radar that it did not have a name when it first opened. The owner only wants Paris' finest, and he figures that if you can't find the place, you are not hip enough to dine there. It's working, the clientele hiding behind the dim lights can also be found between the pages of ELLE and Vogue.
But somewhere between the cocktails at George V and the Euro-pop music at The VIP Room, the couture chaos got a bit overwhelming. So, it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to spend a day at Chateau Villette, just 45 minutes outside of Paris. And after a few days in the trendsetting trenches of fashion week, the thought of putting on a pair of jeans and riding boots was delightfully enticing.
While trolling trunk shows at Hotel du Louve, the Chateau's owner, Olivia Hsu Decker, invited me to visit her 189-acre oasis. The plan was that we would leave early the next day and I would be back to Paris in time to see Jean Paul Gaultier's Hermes fashion show.
I met Olivia at George V the next morning and she drove me and a few others to her chateau in a beautiful vintage Bentley with deep, plush leather seats and wood paneling. In the Bentley, the drive seemed to take only minutes; in reality, it's 45 minutes from Arc de Triomphe. We pulled up to the property and I felt like I had been there before. The chateau is truly iconic. It was the intimidating edifice featured in the Da Vinci Code. The trailer's view is by helicopter and my view was in a Bentley at ground level, either way, it is magnificent.
You can see the chateau about 37 seconds into the trailer:
The property has been the sanctuary for many celebrities who want to experience fine chateau living, while being close enough for a shopping spree in Paris. Here, in the French countryside, they can disappear into a place that beckons its guests to slow down and rest within its century-old walls. Some of her clients include Ron Howard and his crew from The Da Vinci Code, Lenny Kravitz, and John Travolta. The Travoltas stayed at the chateau for two months during the summer of 2008.
Although the crew I came with are not celebrities, Olivia treated us like we were. When we arrived, we had a tour of the property before sitting down in the magnificent dining room for a three-course lunch prepared by the chateau's private chef. We were served smoked salmon wraps filled with Asian vegetables, followed by summer squash puree topped with cheese tortellini and roast lamb. Dessert included an incredible selection of cheeses as well as warm white chocolate sauce with strawberries and pop rocks. Of course there was champagne, red and white wine, darling.
Along with the private chef and house cleaner, the chateau has 18 bedrooms, each with its own modern bathroom. When you rent the property, you are renting all 18 rooms. Even though being at the chateau feels like being in 16-century France, it does have wireless Internet access and a modern telephone system. You won't get bored at the chateau; the private grounds provide numerous outdoor activities including jogging, biking, horse riding, hunting, and tennis. The designers of the famed Versailles, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Le Notre, also designed Chateau de Villette, so this chateau is nicknamed "Le Petite Versailles."
Depending on the time of year you go, the chateau can set you back anywhere from a few thousand dollars a day to a quarter of a million dollars for three months. It is also a lovely location to host workshops and retreats. Some of the retreat themes have included cooking, yoga, self-improvement, and business development. Many couples have been married here as well. It seems like the perfect place for a destination wedding.
I did not make it to the Hermes fashion show, which I do not regret at all. It's quiet moments with wonderful people that are priceless to me, and at the chateau every moment turned out to be something special. So instead of rushing back to Paris, we all just relaxed and watched as the sun smoothly set behind the leafy trees lining the chateau, while we sipped champagne and enjoyed Olivia's gracious company.
To rent the chateau, contact Olivia directly:
Olivia Decker at the Chateau Villette
Tel: + 001 (415) 435.1600